Let’s be honest. Search engine optimization (SEO) sounds a bit like a scam on the surface. Google is a search engine designed to give people the best, most relevant and most authoritative results possible. SEO is a collection of tactics designed to “game the system” in a way, ensuring that your site ranks higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).
In practice, SEO is not only ethical, but beneficial to the online ecosystem as a whole. To rank higher in search engines, you have to create amazing content, improve your reputation and serve users as well as possible.
The problem is, not everyone working in the SEO industry holds themselves to high ethical standards. In fact, a lot of SEO companies (and freelancers) deliberately use low-quality, spam-like tactics for their clients — and have the gall to charge for the service.
So what can you do to detect and avoid scams if you’re working with a service provider?
Most industries have to deal with fraud and scams in at least some areas, but in SEO, the problem is especially pervasive. Moreover, the consequences of working with an unethical company can sabotage your long-term potential.
Fortunately, even a bit of due diligence is enough to detect scammers and unethical practitioners in the SEO industry.
As you’re doing your due diligence, these are some of the biggest red flags to look for.
Scams in SEO aren’t always super obvious, but if you’re willing to do your due diligence, you shouldn’t have trouble separating the wheat from the chaff. The more experience you gain in the SEO industry, the easier it will be to spot the unethical scammers.
Originally appeared in Entrepreneur